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(1) Looking back. When you are leading a race, one of the worst things you can do is start looking back. This will give the rider behind you a sense that you are weak and losing steam. It will make you lose focus—and valuable time. Plus, you can’t go forward fast, if your aren’t looking where you are going. Keep the focus on yourself and race the track.
(2) Starts. Starts are the most definitive factor in winning or losing a race. There is a lot that goes into getting a good start, yet many riders don’t take starts as seriously as the race itself. Picking the right gate, preparing it, and having the proper technique and reaction times are just a few of the variables involved in getting a good start. Practice makes perfect—or at least top five.
(3) Protect. In this world there will always be someone better, faster and stronger than you are, but that doesn’t mean you can’t beat them. If you don’t protect your line, the rider behind you is going to take it away from you. When a faster rider is pressuring from behind, protect those inside lines and don’t let them take an inch. Being a smarter rider is better than being a faster rider 9 times out of 10. If they want to go by you, make them go the long way around.
(4) Chances. Only do what you need to do to win—nothing more, nothing less. Many riders who get in the lead throw it away by taking chances they didn’t need to take to win the race. You aren’t going to get a bigger trophy for winning by a bigger margin, right? So, why risk it? In his heyday, Jeremy McGrath’s tactic was to take chances early and push the limits at the beginning of the race. Then, once he had a comfortable lead, he put it on cruise control. Leave that sketchy jump alone until someone starts to reel you in.
(5) Excuses. The easiest way to lose a race is to have an excuse. Winning is hard; coming up with an excuse is easy. Many riders throw in the towel before they put in 100 percent. Why? Because they are scared that if they give it their all, they will still lose. “My bike wasn’t running right.” “My suspension guy put too much oil in the forks.” “I didn’t eat my Wheaties this morning.” It has all been said at one time or another. If you face the fear of losing head-on and put the excuses aside, you will be surprised what you are actually capable of. Winners don’t make excuses.
(6) Blind. From the first to second moto, the track can change drastically. Lines change, potholes develop, and track maintenance and moisture affect the dirt. Going out blind, without looking over the track for the second moto, can turn your good first moto results upside down.
(7) Testing. I know MXA says that we always test on race days, but that doesn’t mean you should too. We sign up for numerous classes and often switch bikes between motos. We are paid to test. It’s our job, and we are willing to lose a race to test a product. You should be smarter than that. Save that newfangled ECU for Thursday afternoon’s practice. That way, you can make sure it works the way it’s supposed to.
(8) Temperature. Little things can make a big difference. Temperature is one of them. When practice starts bright and early in the morning, the temperature can be on the brisk side. As mid-day comes, it typically gets warmer. This change in temperature from practice to the first moto to the second moto can affect the way your bike handles, your suspension, your mapping or your carb jetting. As the temperature rises, the air inside your tires and forks will expand. The added air pressure can make the bike feel loose or stiff and rigid. On race day, it is best to check your tire pressure and bleed your forks—not only in the morning, but before each moto to ensure it doesn’t throw off your results.
(9) Vision. You never know when the track crew is going to water the track. Sometimes to save time, the track crew will water sections of the track as the race is going on. This can create unexpected puddles on the track. Having your goggles properly prepped with tear-offs could be the difference between winning and losing. Don’t believe us? Try racing with no goggles. It is no fun.
(10) Friends. There is no such thing as a friend on the racetrack. If you are racing against friends, they can’t be trusted. They want to win as much as you do. Because they are your friends, they think they can get away with things that your worst enemy wouldn’t have the nerve to do. Race against your friends the same way you would race against your enemies.